Survival Cooking without Attracting Attention

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Survival Cooking without Attracting Attention

You always know when your neighbours are having a grill, right? That delicious smell of roasted onion seems to carry for miles. So how do you go about cooking when you've bugged out, OPSEC is a concern, and you don't want to attract attention from any of the nasties out there? Sadly, there's no foolproof way to mask the smell of food. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying, trying to sell you something, or are just reciting anecdotal evidence they believed at face value. Of course, there's some things that are just plain idiotic, like eating your meals in your tent, in the middle of bear country. That's just asking for trouble. Here's how to keep your risks at a minimum when you're in the wild:

Make a 'food camp'

Smells can never be completely masked, and if you're in a hostile area, or there's big animals like bears, mountain lions or even coyotes around, it makes sense to do your meals in a separate camp. As a rule of thumb I like this to be at least a 10 minute walk from my base camp, with some vantage points along the way so I don't walk into an ambush come breakfast time. All of your food preparation, dining and storage should be done at your food camp, and everything that you use to cook with stored here as well. Period.

Use camouflage

This one is primarily for avoiding human interactions, because we tend to rely on our sight when seeking out signs of other people. Use items in your natural environment to hide your food camp as best as you can, simple tricks like angling the rope of your bear hang to match the surrounding branches, and keeping the canisters tucked behind thick foliage can reduce the chances you're spotted by anyone who is out looking. Once I'm happy with my preparations, I do a big lap around my campsites to see if I can spot anything that looks out of place, and I make sure not to wear an easy to follow path back to my base camp.

Store it properly

Pretty much every camping store has bear-proof food canisters, and they're a necessity when you're in some parts of the United States. What many people fail to realize is that while a bear may not be able to get into it, the smell of the food does linger on the canister, especially if you just finished cooking. This means it will attract attention. I can't imagine an unhappy bear trying to open a bear-proof canister in my camp at midnight is going to be fun for anyone. Use a bear hang to keep all of your food items high off the ground, and never take any food back to your base camp.

Dispose of your scraps

Sloppy campsites are a bears best friend, especially when there's meat scraps left sitting in the sun for a day or two. Once you finish your dinner, dispose of any scraps leftover far from even your food camp, it should be another 10 minute walk away at least (and no, not back in the direction of your base camp). Wash all of your plates, pans, and cutlery thoroughly. Just because you can't smell the food on it, it doesn't mean the smell is gone. Animals have a much more sensitive sense nose, and being too lazy to wash off any remnants from your cooking is a great way to excite a hungry animal in to investigate.

Change your clothes

Once you've finished your meal, change your clothes, and leave anything that smells like food well away from your camp. Ever smell your wife's hair after a barbeque? That's what I'm talking about, and animals can pick up on these lingering smells very easily. Best not to risk it, so change your clothes, and if you can, take a quick dip in a stream to eliminate any odors on yourself if you're in a particularly dangerous area. Just don't dose up on the perfume or deodorant afterwards, and avoid any strong smelling soaps. These technically aren't food smells, but bears can be inquisitive, and may decide they want to investigate the source of that odd smell they come across.

Cook the right items

There's a place for eggs, bacon and onions, but it's definitely not in the middle of the wild when you're concerned about the smell. Strong-smelling foods are a big no-no when you're trying to remain discreet, as the smell can travel really far, and bacon especially is a notorious bear favorite. I prefer to use pre-cooked meals and dehydrated food to minimize the smells when I'm cooking in the wild, but again, this isn't a sure thing. If you're somewhere where the smell of your cooking is going to put you in harm's way, you're better off with bread, crackers, protein bars and hard candy - items you can quickly eat that have a minimal smell.

Be untrusting

Every time I venture into bear country, I assume these big animals are nearby. Keep bear spray with you at all times, and wear your firearm holstered. Just because you're eating at a camp a couple of hundred yards away it doesn't guarantee your safety when you return to your base, especially with wild animals. You never really know what they will do, or what will pique their interest, so stay prepared at all times. Minimizing your risk when you're cooking in the wild is key, and if you follow these seven steps you're going to greatly reduce your chances you get any unwelcome visitors to your camp in the night. Nothing is foolproof of course, but it'd be far better to find your pots and pans strewn about at your second campsite than having a hungry bear tearing your tent to shreds in search of food, right?